Chander Pahar – The Film.
Fans of DEV are earnestly waiting for their beloved hero to be seen as SHANKAR, the main protagonist of Bibhutibhusan Bandopadhyay’s “CHANDER PAHAR”, New Kolkata Bangla Movie directed by Kamaleswar Mukhopadhyay (of Meghe Dhaka Tara Fame). Till date, Dev has only acted in mainstream commercial Bengali movies like “KHOKA” & “PAGLU” series with glamorous leading ladies like Subhoshree and Koyel. For the first time ever, Dev is acting in a cinema of different genre. CHANDER PAHAR may be considered to be a children’s film chiefly. When Kamaleswar first conceived “Chander Pahar” as a feature film, he categorically visualized SHANKAR to be a well built handsome young boy, who will look innocent and attractive at the same time. After considering few wild options, Kamaleswar suddenly thought of offering the character of SHANKAR to DEV.
Dev at once grabbed the opportunity and was ready to give a look test and audition for the New Kolkata Bangla Movie. After the director got convinced with the casting of DEV as SHANKAR, it was announced at a press conference. The shooting schedule of Chander Pahar was quite a tight one and the entire film was shot in some of the rarest locations of South African jungles. Even gifted Hollywood actor GERAND RUDOULF was singed to play the vital character of DIAGO ALVAREZ, the second lead of the film. Another well known foreign theater and movie artist MARTIN CITO OTTO got finalized as JIM CARTAR.
For the full shooting, a Life Insurance of 50 million INR had been made for Dev and Life insurance of 10 million INR had been made for other artists from Kolkata. Along with DEV and DOP Soumik Haldar, the cast and crew were subjected to life-threatening risks which the insurance will cover. The grasslands of Africa, where the shooting took take place, were full of snakes and most of the crew was quite afraid of this. Abhishek Daga, the executive producer for this film said that carbolic acid was used in all the places wherever the shooting was to take place and everyone had to wear ankle-high boots. Also, during the chase sequence with the lions, the entire shooting spot had to be fenced with electric fences so that giraffes or deer did not enter the set as that could prove dangerous. Small base camps were made for the shooting, where all the crew members had to stay. They had to be surrounded by electric fences because the threat of lions was always there.
Other than lions and Black mamba, the shooting also featured other wild animals such as Python, hyena, crocodile, cheetah, hippopotamus, Puff adder, viper and wild scorpions, most of which are extremely venomous. “Every animal will be shot real and alive with no use of computer graphics”, said Dev. A 22-year old Bengali boy named Sundar had trained the hyenas. There was so much risk in the shooting that the crew was bound to keep mobile phones and ambulances so that crew members could be taken to big hospitals in case of an unexpected danger. Even it is said that helicopters were kept ready so as not to waste any time.
For the filming of Chander Pahar, the team camped at various places in South Africa for a month. Some places near Johannesburg were finalized. Other places where the shooting took place included the jungles of Mpumalanga, Elands River valley, Blyde River Canyon, Kruger National Park, mountains of Drakensberg and the Kalahari Desert. The film has also been shot in Kenya and Uganda, besides South Africa.
Director Kamaleshwar Mukherjee said that near Johannesburg and in the province of Mpumalanga, there are forests, streams and game parks that are quite spectacular, which he wanted to capture on screen. The locations that had been finalized were areas around Kruger National Park, the mountains of Drakensberg and the deserts of Kalahari. Drakensberg has numerous valleys, water bodies and trails that could serve for the famous Richtersveld Mountains described in the novel. The Sentinel peak and KwaZulu-Natal were also great shooting locations, but visually, the Kalahari was the most stunning. Like all deserts, the temperature there varied from 51° Celsius in the day to 5° Celsius in the evening. It was about 17 years ago, that an Italian film was shot there and since then there has been no such activity in these wilds.
A number of tribes of Africa namely the Swahilis, Somalis, Maasais, Matabeles and Zulus will also be shown in this film. Though most of it has been done naturally, few scenes had to be animated; the most notable of these being the eruption of the volcano and a sequence featuring the monster Bunyip.
Original models of various weapons like Springfield Bolt Action, Winchester Repeater, Gewehr 88 Mauser, Colt Six Shooter, Boot Knives, Axe, and such others have also been used in the film.
Along with the hero, one who was exposed to maximum risk was director of Photography, Soumik Haldar as he had to take close shots of Africa’s most deadly snake, the Black Mamba but the ever so passionate DOP confidently said that come what may; he will not back out from the shooting.
With so much of passion, adventure, risks and creativity involved, Chander Pahar is one Kolkata Bengali Movie that is sure to make its place as a benchmark in the industry. The New Kolkata Bangla Movie will also explore a different side of Tollywood’s chocolate boy Hero Dev.
Let’s see what’s actually in store for us.
Chander Pahar : The Story
The novel “CHANDER PAHAR” was first published in 1937 (pre- independence period) and received overwhelming response in the country. The most interesting part is that Sri. Bibhutibhusan had never traveled anywhere outside the national boundaries and this travelogue adventure was a pure work of fiction in totality. Still the details, which are covered in the story, are very accurate which shouts out loud that Bibhutibhusan Bandopadhyay was a rare visionary. Even Satyajit Ray crafted his first feature film, based on a Bibhutibhusan’s Novel “Pather Panchali”.
Chander Pahar is the story of a young Bengali man’s adventures in Africa in the years 1909-1910. Shankar Roy Chowdhury, the protagonist, is a 20-year old man, having recently graduated from college and about to take up a job in a jute mill, a prospect he absolutely loathes.
He yearns for adventure, wild lands, forests and animals. He wants to follow the footsteps of famous explorers like Livingstone, Mungo Park, Marco Polo, all of whom he had read about and idolizes. By a stroke of luck, he secures a job as a clerk in Uganda Railway through a fellow villager already working there and rushes off to Africa without a second thought.
There, he spends a few months laying rail tracks but soon encounters the first of many dangers of Pre-World War I Africa—man-eating lions. Later he takes up a job as station master in desolate station. Here he encounters the other hazards of Africa: the poisonous black mamba.
He also rescues and looks after the middle-aged Portuguese explorer and gold prospector, Diego Alvarez. The encounter with Alavarez influences him deeply. Alavarez tells him of his earlier exploits and adventures, how he and his companion Jim Carter had braved deep jungles and mountains of Richtersveld to find the largest diamond mine. However, they were thwarted by the legendary Bunyip, a mythical monster which guards the mines which killed Carter.
Shankar gives up his job and accompanies Alvarez as he decides to venture out once more and find the mines again. They meet with innumerable hardships, a raging volcano being the greatest challenge. Eventually they get lost in the forests where Alvarez is killed by a mysterious monster, the same that had taken Carter’s life, the Bunyip.
Shankar sets out to reach civilization. He finds the Bunyip’s cave and the diamond mines by accident. He enters the cave but eventually gets lost. With great difficulty, he gets out, marking his way with “pebbles” and taking some back with him as memento, not knowing each is a piece of uncut diamond. He finds the remains of the Italian explorer, Attilio Gatti, and learns that the cave he found earlier really was the diamond mine. Shankar also learns from a note left by Gatti, that there were uncut diamonds in his boots. The note said that whoever reads the note can take the diamonds as long as he buries his skeleton, with Christian rites. Shankar does so, and keeps the old diamonds. He becomes lost in the deserts of Kalahari and nearly dies of thirst. Fortunately he is rescued by a survey team, and taken to a hospital in Salisbury, Rhodesia, from where he sets sail for home. He ends the book saying that he will return to that cave one day with a large team, and continue the legacy of Alvarez, Carter and Gatti.
Compiled by Sanjib Banerjee with information from Production unit of Chander Pahar and various other Media Sources
Image Credits: google Images